Harvard professor Niall Ferguson has apologized “unreservedly” after making a homophobic slur about influential economist John Maynard Keynes.
Ferguson was speaking at the Altegris conference in California when an audience member asked a question about Keynes’ assertion that, “In the long run we are all dead.” The historian and author, a staunch opponent of Keynesian economics, said the British economist did not care about future generations because he was childless and gay.
The audience at the event fell silent when the remarks were made, notes Tom Kostigen, a Financial Advisor reporter who was at the event. After a transcript from the question-and-answer session was posted to StreetTalk Live, the backlash against Ferguson’s remarks began.
Niall Ferguson has now issued an apology on his official website, describing his comments as “stupid” and “insensitive.” Under the title “An Unqualified Apology,” he writes:
“During a recent question-and-answer session at a conference in California, I made comments about John Maynard Keynes that were as stupid as they were insensitive.
“I had been asked to comment on Keynes’ famous observation ‘In the long run we are all dead.’ The point I had made in my presentation was that in the long run our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, and will have to deal with the consequences of our economic actions.
“My colleagues, students, and friends – straight and gay – have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself. To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize.”
Niall Ferguson’s apology also admits that certain facts had slipped the professor’s mind:
“I should not have suggested [...] that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’ wife Lydia miscarried.”
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told The Guardian he was glad Ferguson had apologized, though added the remarks belonged to a “pub bigot,” rather than a Harvard academic:
“I’m glad Ferguson has apologised for his homophobic slur against Keynes. However, it is shocking that such casual homophobia apparently exists in high academia. His remarks are what we might expect from a pub bigot, not from a Harvard history professor.
“The idea that Keynes was unconcerned about future generations is offensive nonsense. His economic theories were motivated by a love of humanity and a concern for present and future public welfare.”
What do you make of Niall Ferguson’s apology?